So the annual bull run to join a gym has begun to dwindle. The challenge for those establishments now is how to retain the new members who have started the year in the hope of achieving weight loss or muscle gain.

The reality is that with no structured training and nutrition plan the results will fail to materialise and inevitably the member will leave.

Anton Clancy, regional manager of Jackie Skelly gyms, which has 20,000 members across Leinster, was in the paper recently saying that they retain 55pc of new members by making the gym “habit-forming”. But how many of these 55pc are actually active? In school, below 55pc would be rated as a ‘D’ or mediocre grade.

Researchers have recently published figures saying that working out does not necessarily shed the pounds. A study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine followed 58 obese people who completed 12 weeks of supervised aerobic training without changing their diets.

The results were disappointing as the participants only lost, on average, seven pounds. And 26 of the participants lost barely half that.

A study by the University of Colorado School of Medicine found their subjects did not use up any additional body fat on the day they exercised. Unexpectedly, none of those taking part, including the lean athletes, experienced afterburn, that is where the body continues to burn fat after exercise has stopped.

The lead author of that study, Edward Melanson, said: “It’s not that exercise doesn’t burn fat, it’s just that we replace the calories.”

Doing any form of physical activity does not mean that you can then reward yourself with bars of chocolate, as your goal is to burn more energy than you take in.

As I have said before, the fact that aerobic training doesn’t deliver fat loss is nothing new. In fact, aerobic training can make you fatter if you do too much and it can make you lose your fat-burning muscle.

Endocrinologist Diana Schawzbein has stated that the worst thing for diabetics is aerobic training. Instead they should be performing weight training to maintain their fat-burning muscle.

To build muscle and to change your body shape, you have to work hard, eat fresh proteins, salads and vegetables and be disciplined with the consistent execution of these activities.

Your training should be challenging and every day you should be looking to improve.

Improvements

People don’t work hard enough in the gym. They are not willing to pay the physical price of success and do the ‘heavy lifting’ of regular healthy nutrition, training and being accountable for their workouts by measuring for improvements.

People are in love with the story of their excuse. Do you really know what hard work is? It is not about the quantity of time you spend in the gym but the quality and the intensity.

When you jog, step or perform spinning classes you are performing continuous aerobic exercise, which resembles the work done by a small one-litre car similar to Nissan Micra. As I’ve said before, Micras don’t go very fast. They are fuel-efficient — they go long distances without burning much fuel — but they are not so great to look at.

If your goal is fat loss, you need to do weight training and interval sprints. Usain Bolt and Olympic-level sprinters, with their two to six per cent body fat, are more like Ferraris. The latter have bigger engines (more muscle mass) and perform short bursts of activity (sprints) that burn lots of fuel. Similar to the Ferrari, a sleek and powerful design means they are envied by many!

A study published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology in 2002 showed that a resistance exercise programme lasting 31 minutes increased the EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption) for 38 hours post-workout (possibly longer, as this was when the researchers stopped measuring).

So don’t settle for a ‘D’ grade. If you want the body of a Nissan Micra, look for a Micra mechanic, but if you want a Ferrari, look for a specialist mechanic and be prepared to do the hard work.

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